7 Things to Know for 10 Years to Come

What the Church Needs Now – 7 Things to Know 

After a season of assisting churches with evidence based discernment, mostly small congregations in smaller communities, I’ve encountered a notable level of concern about the future. Leaders of these churches already know these two things, but there are seven others they really need to embrace. They know:

1 the present doesn’t look anything like the past.

2 if their churches don’t begin to attract new people (usually “families with children and youth” they question whether they have a future beyond the next 10 years.

0778D9E0-4E7D-465E-A467-021D1758B1BAIt’s inevitable. Churches must change. Change drastically. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need to change the message. Just the method. One is sacred. The other is not.

What isn’t as clear is what the future church will look like, and what kind of characteristics will mark those churches.

However, I think some trends are coming into focus. I may not be correct, but the following traits describe what I relieve are the kind of churches that will have a significant impact a decade from now.

Here are a few traits I believe will make churches successful in making an impact in the next few years:

1. The ability to say no. All too common reasons churches don’t change is because leaders are unwilling to say no to current members who prefer things the way they were. When you learn to say no to the preferences of some current members, you learn to say yes to a community that is ready to be reached.

2. Focus Beyond.  Congregations that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than churches that are passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls. Better still, you will have a healthier church.

3. Prioritizing a for you not from you culture.  Churches in decline often think in terms of what they can get from people – money, time, growth etc. Churches that will make an impact on the future will be passionate about what they want for people – financial balance, generosity, the joy of serving, better families, and of course, Christ at the center of everyone’s life.

4. Flexibility.  Often a church doesn’t need to change its mission (sometimes it needs to be rediscovered, though!)  but going forward it will be key to change your methods. Flexible and adaptable churches that can innovate around strategy and different initiatives will have the freedom to make the changes they need to make an impact moving forward.

5. A willingness to embrace smaller to become bigger.  When small churches stop being anxious about being bigger churches (or like they were in the 50’s and 60’s) good things can happen. Small can be mighty. Smaller churches  might be a hallmark of future churches making an impact.

6. An openness to questions.  Churches that understand that embracing questions is as important as providing immediate answers will make an impact in the future. We’re discovering that if you embrace questions, the answers are often lived into. The Spirit actually does move in people’s lives.

7. Value exploring and  experimentation. The more traditional you are, the less you will value experimentation. The more successful you are, the less you will value experimentation. If you start to raise the value of experimentation, you will accelerate change and flexibility. The churches that connect with their community will be the churches willing enough to try a variety of things, and who also have the courage to kill them as soon as they stop producing results.

That’s what I see. What do you see in your church?


Author: mustardseedonline10

Kurt Jacobson is a trained interpretive consultant of Holy Cow! assessments serving churches across WI and beyond. An ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he served Trinity Lutheran Church, Eau Claire for 28 years. In 2016 he formed Mustard Seed Consulting. Jacobson holds a BA in Business/Hospital Administra on and Organiza onal Communication from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and a Masters of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. He holds a certificate in Intentional Interim Ministry from the National Association of Lutheran Interim Pastors. He is the author of “Welcoming Grace: Words of Love for All.” In addition, the book “The State of the ELCA” by Russell Crabtree, founder of Holy Cow! includes a chapter detailing the work Kurt did in making Trinity a transformational congregation. He lives near Cumberland, WI.

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